Hill, Casey - 'Taboo'
Reilly Steel leaves her almost idyllic life in California in order to keep an eye on her Irish-born father in Dublin. Mike Steel left California years before, but he is all that remains of her family – and he is a man lost to drink. She works obsessively, trying to acclimatise to life in Dublin and trying to forget her own family tragedy. But Reilly still wakes up dreaming of her younger sister, Jess.
Resented by some colleagues, she tries to settle into her job in the recently formed Garda Forensic Unit. The pace of the team's workload heats up as Reilly herself spots the clues that turn the apparent suicide of a young couple into a murder case. When the forensics link that case to another apparent suicide, the murders escalate into a twisted dance led by a cold-blooded killer looking to break all of society’s taboos.
With their first crime novel writing team Kevin and Melissa Hill (writing as Casey Hill) have made an impressive debut. Their UK publisher Simon & Schuster have already commissioned two further titles and Ecosse Films have optioned a forensic crime TV series from the Reilly Steel concept. This seems quite a splash.
As for Reilly Steel herself? What better way to introduce an American forensic investigator into an Irish setting than by allowing Quantico-trained Reilly to return to and discover her Irish roots whilst working for the Gardai. In TABOO the evidence chain seems to major on psychology rather than pure forensics. In this sense Reilly Steel is not in the same territory as Kathy Reichs' Tempe Brennan or Cornwell's Kay Scarpetta. But I am fine with psychology as a hook. In fact, as the story progressed, I was eyeing up every emerging character as a possible psychopathic killer - part of my suspense was rampant suspicion.
Some of the characters in TABOO are already stock ingredients in police thrillers: the workaholic investigator, the antagonistic boss, and the cynical colleague turned staunch supporter - not to mention a romantically interesting police detective – but they emerge pretty fully fleshed and I'm sure that their personalities and interactions will deepen as the series progresses. For me there was a slight disappointment in the pacing of the finale which although exciting seemed at the very end almost too pat. Nevertheless I will put up with a slight hiccup in the tempo when the plot and overall suspense is as well engineered as it is in TABOO. Roll on Reilly.
Lynn Harvey, England
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.